Navigating through a divorce can be overwhelming for many people. Adding the complexities of military benefits, pensions, and acronyms on top of everything can add a tremendous amount of pressure to an already stressful situation. Both servicemembers and their spouses rely heavily on their friends and family for support during the difficult time of separation and divorce. However, many military families go through a divorce while stationed in another state, apart from their support networks.
Each state has its own set of laws governing divorce, and Virginia has a very particular set of divorce laws. However, the benefits to which servicemembers and their spouses are entitled both during and after a divorce are based on federal law—meaning they will remain the same in every state.
Given the complex interaction between state and federal law in every military divorce case, a large number of … Read More »
On January 1, 2019, big changes went into effect for the military retirement system for active duty and retiring servicemembers. The legacy system in place prior to January 1st provides military servicemembers with 20 or more years of service with a monthly annuity, based on years of service, upon retirement.* In addition to the annuity, servicemembers have been able to contribute to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), the equivalent to a military 401k account, as an additional means of saving for retirement.
The new retirement plan, called the Blended Retirement System (BRS), blends these two options for new servicemembers and for servicemembers with less than 12 years of service who opt in to the new plan. The BRS maintains the annuity based on years of service, but now the Department of Defense (DoD) will also automatically contribute 1% to the servicemembers … Read More »
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2017, signed into law in December 2016, drastically changes the way military retired pay can be divided in divorce cases. The new NDAA made major changes to the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), which is the federal law enacted in 1982 that allowed states to divide military retired pay as marital property in divorce.
The original USFSPA did not provide for any particular division of a servicemember’s military retired pay. Rather, each state was able to develop methods of dividing military retired pay based on their existing state laws concerning division of property in divorce.
Virginia, as an equitable distribution state, awarded a former spouse a portion of the “marital share” of the servicemember’s retired pay. The marital share was a fraction of the total retired pay, with the numerator being the creditable service … Read More »
According to statistics released on Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Defense, the military’s divorce rate dropped again last year, and has reached its lowest level since 2005.
In 2014, the divorce rate among enlisted and officer men and women was 3.1 percent. The military divorce rate has steadily decreased since 2011, when it reached a high of 3.7 percent. In 2001, when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were beginning, the rate was only 2.6 percent.
By contrast, the civilian divorce rate stands at approximately 3.6 percent, according to the most current data available.
One gender is largely responsible for the steady decline in military divorces. Since 2011, the female military divorce rate has dropped from 8.0 percent to 6.5 percent, accounting for most of the overall reduction. Female Marines saw the largest decrease in divorces, from 9.5 percent in 2011 to … Read More »
Virginia child or spousal support cases involving military servicemembers present unique and sometimes challenging issues. Servicemembers have a pay structure much different than that of a civilian. Military pay can be any combination of basic pay, benefits, entitlements, allowances, and/or special and incentive pay. With the various types of pay, some taxable, many non-taxable, how does a servicemember know what pay the court will look at to determine spousal or child support? Can the court consider non-taxable pay such as disability pay for spousal support or child support? Are special entitlements such as Post 9-11 GI Bill benefits considered income for purposes of determining support?
Military Pay and Child Support in Virginia
Virginia courts use the same factors in every child support case to determine the amount applicable under the statewide child support guidelines. The court may deviate from “the guidelines amount” … Read More »
A Family Care Plan (FCP) is a document that certain active duty or reserve servicemembers, and some DOD civilians, are required by the Department of Defense to maintain in order to ensure that their children (and incapacitated parents) are taken care of if they are called away to service.
Any person required by DOD Instruction 1342.19 to maintain a Family Care Plan must do so in a certain amount of time. Other than the requirements with respect to timely filing, the instructions are fairly broad as to what can and should be included in the FCP.
At a minimum, a Family Care Plan allows the military member to designate another party to care for his or her child during any period where the member is unavailable due to military service obligations.
Though the DOD requires this plan of action and files it in each servicemember’s … Read More »
“I’m Deploying! How does that affect my custodial or visitation rights to my child?”
Deploying is a unique and difficult fact of life for most every military family. For those parents involved in a custody or visitation dispute, deployment can be an even more stressful event, as the deploying parent must also be concerned with arrangements for his or her child during the required absence.
Given that Virginia has the second largest military population in the United States, it is not surprising that in 2008 the Virginia legislature addressed the concerns of deploying parents with a statutory scheme designed to protect the custodial or visitation rights of our men and women in uniform.
The Virginia Military Parents Equal Protection Act, incorporated into Virginia Code Sections 20-124.7 through 20-124.10, defines who is considered to be a deploying parent, including not only active duty but … Read More »
Military divorce cases often involve discussion of military retired pay, the Survivor Benefit Plan, and continuation of the spouse’s medical benefits after divorce. A growing topic of discussion in these cases is the servicemember’s education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Increasingly, these benefits are becoming a topic of negotiation in separation agreements between divorcing couples.
The GI Bill can cover all in-state tuition and fees at public degree-granting schools. It also provides for a housing stipend and book allowance while in school. The benefits may be used up to 15 years after the servicemember’s discharge from active duty. Eligibility for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits requires a minimum of six years of service. Separate requirements apply for reservists. Servicemembers may transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a spouse or child, but only after meeting an additional service obligation of four years.
Under 38 U.S.C. § 3020(f)(3), Post-9/11 … Read More »
As we have previously discussed here at the Livesay Myers Blog, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) can have a significant impact in a family law case where one party is a member of the Armed Forces. The SCRA provides paths for servicemembers on active duty to delay litigation in which they are involved. Key points that servicemembers often ignore with respect to the SCRA are (a) that it only provides a temporary delay to their litigation and (b) that the servicemember is required to actively seek relief under the SCRA.
These points were discussed in a recent Marine Corps Times article regarding a soldier who appealed a child support court order to the Alaska Supreme Court. The soldier argued in his appeal that the SCRA protected him from any negative consequences of civil litigation as long as he is on active … Read More »
Signed into law by President Bush in 2003, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) both replaced and expanded the similarly-focused Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act (SSCRA), which was originally passed in 1918. The purpose of the SCRA is to allow servicemembers to “devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the Nation.” As such, the SCRA provides legal protections to active duty members of the United States military when they are involved in lawsuits that affect their rights. This applies to all types of litigation, including divorce and child custody lawsuits. If you are a member of the military on active duty, the SCRA can assist you greatly. However, if you are involved in litigation against an active duty member of the military, the SCRA can place many additional hurdles in your path. Here’s how:
How the SCRA Can … Read More »